Planting the seeds for the future: Community members contribute to beautification project at Fort Drum’s LeRay Historic District

FORT DRUM, NY — Dozens of community members volunteered on a landscape project at LeRay Historic District during “Beautify LeRay Day” Oct. 13 at Fort Drum, New York.

The project was funded through a National Public Lands Day Department of Defense Award, and the grant provided ample flower bulbs, trees and bird feeders for volunteers to plant and install throughout the estate grounds.

“By honoring the past and preserving our environment, we are literally, today, planting the seeds for a secure future,” said Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander.

The improvements made to the landscape – to include all-season flower beds and a small apple orchard – will not only enhance the natural beauty of the district, but it is designed to create habitats that will attract, shelter and nourish migratory and resident bird populations throughout the year.

Dr. Laurie Rush, Fort Drum Cultural Resources Program manager, said that the history of the LeRay Mansion Historic District has been studied thoroughly by post archaeologists and shared with visiting community members. She said that “Beautify LeRay Day” gives people a chance to make a lasting contribution to its history in a way that will impact the environment for years to come.

“For years and years we have studied the historic landscape and commissioning plants, but we’ve never had an opportunity to bring it back to life,” she said. “Today is that chance, for the first time, and we are so grateful for everyone who chose to be here.”

Among the volunteers were members of Scout Troop 65 from Alexandria Bay, to include Sam Felicia, junior assistant scoutmaster.

“It’s awesome to do community service,” he said. “We don’t really do gardening that often, but we’re doing OK. I think some of the younger Scouts definitely learned something new today.”

Felicia said that his parents work at Fort Drum, and that they’ve had family holiday parties at LeRay Mansion before, so he would be interested to see its transformation in the future.

“The trees planted today will be here for many years,” he said. “I’m excited to see how it all turns out.”

Ty Stiefel, from Cub Scout Pack 65, said that he liked planting bulb, and he kept a souvenir when he found a huge red leaf that he liked.

“It’s just so exciting to see members of the wider community join our military community to invest in the future of this extraordinary treasure we have at Fort Drum,” Rush said.

“Beautify LeRay Day” begin with the unveiling of the new sign to commemorate the opening of the Natural Resources and Cultural Center within the LeRay Mansion Historic District. The event also acknowledged the 25th annual National Public Lands Day and the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Rolando Sanchez, with 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, lives just a stone’s throw away from where the new sign was unveiled, and he attended the ceremony with his wife and two children.

They joined the crowd in planting the first flower bulbs around the sign. Sanchez said that this was a great chance to spend some meaningful time with his own family and his Army family.

“That’s what this means to me, a day of togetherness,” he said. “Now that my family lives in this community, it’s great for us to be able to help out, plant flowers and do something for the community.”